Go Ye Unto All the World, and Preach the Gospel to Every Creature (Mark 16:15)As Dionne and I made our final preparations for our mission, our son Bryan gave us the advice to get to know and feed the young missionaries. On their mission, Bryan and Jami had both been touched by a number of senior couples so they knew the effect a good senior couple could have on young missionaries. One couple, the Griffs, stood out and they have remained good friends with them.
What Bryan did not tell us, however, was how much an effect the young missionaries would have upon Dionne and I. Simply put, they are the best part of the mission. Serving with them has been a joy and an honor. This post is about the missionaries that we have served with so far.
|Missionaries eating lunch during District Meeting.|
"Missionary" - Someone Who Leaves Their Family for a Short Time So That Others May Be With Their Families for EternitySome young Latter-Day Saints chose to postpone their lives to serve missions for the church. They save their money to pay for their mission. They do not chose where they will go. They willingly submit to a long list of rules and restrictions. They do without television, movies, worldly music, iPhones, dating, and many recreational activities. They leave their families behind. While they email with them weekly, they only talk to them (Skype) on Christmas and Mother's Day.
|Elder Hole enjoying his Christmas Skype session with home.|
Within the mission, the area that they serve in is at the Mission President's discretion. They are assigned a companion and asked to learn how to get along. Usually about the time they have learned how to live with this person, they are assigned to move to another city with a different companion.
|Good friends and former companions Sister Rougeau and Sister Rollins saying a surprise goodbye. Sister Rollins was transferred unexpectedly and they realized that they would likely not see each other again until after their missions.|
|Elder Isom and Sister Higlee role playing during district meeting.|
|Chilling in a chair made for two.|
In an area like Bosnia which has relatively few members, these young missionaries have a very difficult job. Their mandate is to invite people to come to Jesus Christ, a somewhat daunting task in Muslim-majority cities like Sarajevo and Tuzla. Rejection is part of the job description. Although they may intellectually realize that they are not being rejected personally, it still hurts personally. Sisters Rougeau and Martineau, for example, have knocked on 700 doors over the past two weeks to no effect. They know that this is an ineffective method for finding people to teach. But they have faith that they will find that one person who has been prepared by the Spirit to hear their message. They are willing to suffer daily indignities and rejection because of their love for that one individual. Which is exactly what the Savior was willing to do as well.
The Most Effective Missionaries Always Act Out of Love - Dallin H. Oaks
|Elder Isom with recent convert Fadil.|
|Prof. Mohan and Sister Anjewierden after she learned that she was being transferred. |
There will always be a special bond between these two.
|All's well in Tuzla.|
By Helping Others Come Unto Him, You Will Find That You Will Come Unto Him Yourself - Henry B. EyringSo why do they do it? Why give up 18-months (sisters) or 2-years (elders) of their lives? The answers vary by missionary. Many serve because they feel obligated. Their parents, their bishop, their friends, their siblings, or a teacher has made them feel like they need to serve a mission. Mormon culture, especially in Utah, puts a lot of pressure upon these kids to come serve missions.
|Our "class" of missionaries at the MTC. We came out with this group.|
LDS scholar Kevin Barney recently wrote an honest article about why he went on his mission. In retrospect, his four reasons were 1) (unstated) familial expectation ("I don't ever remember talking about my going on a mission with my family...of course I would be going"), 2) my friends were all going ("virtually all my church friends were going", 3) missionaries showing me the ropes ("I genuinely admired those guys and they gave me a certain comfort level"), and 4) I wanted to get married someday ("I seriously had the idea that no Mormon girl would ever marry me if I didn't serve a mission"). He was glad he went. But he also realized that he was a spiritual pygmy when he left on his mission. Aren't we all?
|Our missionaries over Christmas. |
Speaking of "marriage," our oldest, Bryan, married Sister Pittman from his mission.
Always makes us wonder who might or might not be compatible later on.
|Another reason to come on a mission might be all of the wonderful European food. We do like to eat here.|
|The Sisters at a conference.|
We Do Not Find the Savior Using Force or Coercion - Ezra Taft BensonTrue conversion to pure religion is only accomplished by the sweet promptings of the Holy Spirit. It is not accomplished by the sword, by apologetic persuasion, or by political mandate. True conversion is miraculous by its very nature.
|Missionaries in Rijeka.|
These young missionaries are trying to help Bosnians experience miracles in their lives. To be effective, however, they have to extol without manipulation, coercion, or pressure. In other words, they are sales people but they cannot use any of the traditional tricks. In their place, they use honesty, sincerity, and love.
|Elder Evans deep in thought as he studies.|
|Sister Anjewierden and our friend Ilma.|
Let's just say the Elders and Sisters have a tough job! And they do it with a big smile on their faces.
|Elder Perry on the streets in Zagreb.|
Find Joy in the Journey - Thomas S. MonsonA few weeks ago I posted about how difficult it has been for Dionne and I to live together 24x7. The young missionaries have the same problems. Depression is common. But unlike Dionne and I who have found that we are best when we get some time apart, the missionaries are required to stay near their companion at all times.
|Fortunately both Sister Anjewierden and Sister Locey wanted to hike down to the waterfall at Jajce.|
|Yes...sometimes it is just McDonalds. But not always!|
|Elders Rasmussen and Isom trying to avoid the lazer eyes on the bobsled run.|
|Sisters Martineau and Rougeau above Sarajevo.|
|The Sarajevo and Tuzla group enjoying the sunshine in Mostar.|
Dionne and I do not get to visit Tuzla as much as we would like. But we have been very impressed by the Elders who serve there. They have an energy that is infectious.
|Our first set of Tuzla missionaries gathered around this old pink French car.|
|One of Dionne's famous cinnamon rolls in Elder Hardy's hands.|
|Elders Echols and Perry with Aren.|
|Sister Locey auditioning for the Blue Man Group. That paint was very difficult to get off!|
I'll Be Home for ChristmasDuring the holidays we all yearn for family. For many of the young missionaries, Thanksgiving and Christmas are their first holiday away from family. Come to think of it, this may have been Dionne and my first holiday away from family. So we were grateful that we were able to spend both holidays with the young missionaries here.
|We could not find a whole turkey and I bombed on the sweet potatoes. But we still enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner.|
|Elders Perry and Isom with their Christmas stockings.|
|Elder DeLeeuw brought plenty of Christmas spirit!|
|Working hard to get the perfect picture.|
|We visited a 15th century Turkish dervish which required the sisters to be covered.|
Dionne has taken this family motif thing a little too far. I had not noticed this but she started measuring every missionary that stops by our apartment a few months ago. So we now have a "kids" wall.
|Elder Echols being measured on the wall.|
|Some of the names on the wall. Sister Martineau purposely took her shoes off so that she would win the "shortest" prize. Perry was happy to have a half inch on Rougeau. Elder Winfield is the tallest to-date.|
True Happiness Comes Only By Making Others Happy - David O. McKayWe have served with 17 missionaries in Sarajevo and Tuzla so far (not counting exchanges). And we look forward to serving with many, many more. A bittersweet reality is that every transfer brings a good-bye and a hello. Some good-byes are too early (like Elder Isom) and some are ready to move on (Sister Locey, Elder DeLeeuw). But there is always a hello. And a new missionary to get to know and to love.
|Saying good-bye to Elder Isom.|
I want to tell a quick story about each missionary that we have served with. I am purposely staying away from religious stories. Understand that many of these missionaries have taught Dionne and I important lessons about the gospel and we are grateful for this. I have included a quick anecdote for each of them in the order of when they appeared in our lives.
|Sister Martineau is from a small town in New Mexico and immediately reminded Dionne and I of our old Denver neighbor, Kim Bugg. After service we usually take the missionaries to lunch. When asked what sounded good, Sister Martineau immediately replied, "Lasagna", but we weren't sure where we could find any where that actually served it here. We owed them a dinner the next week so rather than eat out they asked Dionne to make lasagna. And we went to the bobsled with 6 missionaries recently. At the starting gate is the luge start which requires a steep climb to the top. Who else but Sister Martineau appeared with a big smile at the top of the luge hill?|